We cannot be perfect apart from others. The Bible links perfection with human relationships. Christ urges us to be as perfect as our Father in heaven and ties the process to how we treat each other. The Kingdom of God is about eternal, peaceful relationships. We cannot withdraw from people and still develop the necessary relationship skills, just as God never leaves us but continues to work with us. Life would be easier for Him if He ignored us, but He works on, helping us develop our relationships with Him. He is the One who works perfection in us.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Going On to Perfection
These verses contain perhaps the most startling, sublime statement Christ made. Jesus does not mean that we resolve to like everyone, but that we act in goodwill toward those we do not like as well as those we do. This command seems unreasonable and absurd, but only because of our carnality. Christ desires all to be happy. Both the hater and the hated are miserable to some degree, and the misery will not cease until the hatred dissolves. The antidote to hatred is love.
Some have described this love as an unconquerable goodwill, an invincible benevolence. This love does not merely involve feeling, but also the will. With this love, our concern for another's good overcomes any feelings of offense, resentment, and retaliation. It motivates us to do good rather than react in kind to what caused our negative feelings toward the other. Only those who have the mind of Christ can do this. We must seek it from God.
In this section Christ lists three ways people show their ill-feelings toward others. Cursing indicates verbally denigrating others and working to destroy their reputation; gossiping. Hatred implies an active, passionate feeling against another. Spitefully using and persecuting means continually at war with, harassing, always being on another's case.
He also specifies three ways a Christian can combat these actions. We can bless, meaning giving good words for bad. We can also do good for our enemies, not merely restrain ourselves from retaliation. Lastly, we can pray for them and for their welfare, asking God to change their hearts so a two-way love can exist.
This is a major test for God's children. God wants us to do this so that we may resemble Him—be in His image—because this is the way He is. If a man has this love, he is like God. God shows us His love in this very manner. Despite what we do on His great green earth, the sun still shines, the rain still falls, and He is constantly providing for and working toward our salvation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
God's gracious gifts are just that—gracious. They are unearned and unmerited by us who have willingly sinned against Him, desecrated His beautiful creation and either ignored or neglected His awesome purpose. Despite this, His gifts of life are nonetheless unforced, an abundant manifestation of His kind nature. He does not return evil for evil; He does not bear grudges, burn with resentment, or plot to get even. Rather, He freely gives even to evil doers while He patiently works toward the completion of His purpose!
It has always been this way. Despite the Israelites' manifold sins after their rescue from Egypt, He continued to provide food, water, and protection all the way into the Promised Land. Once in the land, they continued their provocations for about another seven hundred years before He finally drove them into captivity. All the while He provided for them so abundantly that Israel became a very wealthy, albeit ungrateful, nation.
Psalm 78:37-39 records this of Israel's relationship with God:
For their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; for He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 5:46: